UK Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to convince her Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez to support Brexit, as Sanchez repeated a threat to veto the deal. The two can’t agree on how Brexit will affect the status of Gibraltar.
“After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit,” Sanchez tweeted late Thursday night.
After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) November 22, 2018
Spain has been seeking guarantees that any post-Brexit negotiations on the status of Gibraltar – a British territory surrounded by Spain and sea, which Madrid lays a claim to – remain between itself and the UK, without giving a say to the EU. As of now, the Gibraltar protocol in Brexit papers does not directly envision talks between the tiny territory and the EU, but Madrid wants them ruled out explicitly.
Sanchez has already threatened to torpedo the entire Brexit deal before, if Spain’s demands on the issue are not met. May spoke to Sanchez on the phone, but apparently failed to budge the talks.
Gibraltar is a small territory located in a strategically important choke point at the entrance to the Mediterranean sea. It consists of the Rock of Gibraltar and an urban area home to 30,000 people. Ceded to the Brits in the early 18th century, it has remained in their possession despite Spain’s later attempts to recapture it. In modern days, Madrid sees it as a source of unfair competition due to lower taxes which lead to Spanish businesses being registered there – one of the issues that are addressed in the Gibraltar protocol.
In case Madrid doesn’t sink it, Theresa May’s Brexit plan is expected to be signed at a special EU summit on Sunday.
May has been taking hits constantly over her handling of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Numerous officials, including Brexit’s staunch supporter former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have walked out of May’s Cabinet as the rocky negotiations dragged on. Johnson has repeatedly accused May of “surrendering” Britain’s best interest and turning the UK into a “colony” of the EU.